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“We should be focused on facilitating buying processes rather than trying to sell.”- Shawn Cook

Summary

In this episode of the Transform Sales Podcast, Wesleyne interviews Shawn Matthew Cook, the founder of SMC Sales.

They discuss Shawn’s journey into sales, the importance of trust in sales, and how to become a trusted advisor to buyers.

They also explore selling to marketers and the need to align the selling process with the buyer’s buying process.

Shawn shares his insights on creating repeatable and scalable sales systems and the power of storytelling in sales.

He also talks about the impact of mentors and the importance of defining and measuring success.

Takeaways

  1. Trust is crucial in sales, and salespeople should strive to be trusted advisors to their buyers.
  2. To establish trust, salespeople should listen actively and put themselves in the buyer’s shoes.
  3. Selling to marketers requires understanding their world and aligning the selling process with their buying process.
  4. Creating repeatable and scalable sales systems can help B and C players level up and achieve better results.
  5. Storytelling is a powerful tool in sales, as it helps buyers remember and connect with the product or service.
  6. Having mentors and defining and measuring success are important factors in personal and professional growth.

Chapters

Connect with Shawn

LinkedIn- linkedin.com/in/shawnsationalcso

Website- b2bsalessuperheroes.com 

{{connect-with-wesleyne}}

Transcript

Wesleyne (00:01.476)

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Transform Sales Podcast. Today I am so delighted to have Sean Matthew Cook with me. How are you Sean?

Shawn Matthew Cook (00:11.374)

I'm so sensational.

Wesleyne (00:13.284)

Sean, say, Shalom. I love it. Let me tell you about Sean. He is the founder of SMC Sales, specializing in transforming B2B sales processes into repeatable, predictable, scalable, and profitable systems. With over three decades of experience, Sean is dedicated to implementing proven sales strategies that integrate mindsets, mantras, skills, and behaviors necessary for high performing teams.

Shawn Matthew Cook (00:14.894)

I'm sorry.

Wesleyne (00:38.968)

His mission is to ensure no salesperson is left behind, helping sales leaders and their teams achieve top tier results. Sean is the author of forthcoming books, The ABCs of Sales and Choose Your Own Adventure, a guidebook to facilitating the B2B buyer's journey with an account-based sales system. So Sean, tell us, how did you start your career and how did you become this amazing person that you are today?

Shawn Matthew Cook (01:02.626)

Well, awesome. Thank you and thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. You know, my journey into sales actually began unexpectedly in the late 1980s. I started selling time-like books and music over the phone and initially I was drawn to broadcasting. That's what I really wanted to do. And I instead discovered a deep passion for sales, a path that I pursued over three decades alongside being married for 38 years now. So outside of...

my wife, which is my first love. Sales really became my first love. I transitioned to B2B sales in the mid 90s and I've directed high performance teams in the challenging MarTech sector for about the last 15 years. A notoriously tough audience. And all these experiences for me revealed gaps in leadership and sales enablement. It prompted me to actually establish SMC sales.

And here's why I focus on empowering businesses through tailored leadership coaching, driven by my mission, which is to bridge these industry gaps and to make sales repeatable and predictable and scalable and profitable. And as you mentioned, I on the way, I'm writing a couple of books that are tied to this journey. But ultimately I believe that everybody possesses unique powers that can elevate us to superhero status in our professional and personal lives. It's a theme that's really central to my work.

at SMC sales or b2b sales superheroes.com and my goal is to be a trusted partner and help clients unleash their potential and achieve success.

Wesleyne (02:38.236)

That's awesome. So when we rewind to Young Sean, who was just embarking on a sales career, what are some of the fears, some of the apprehensions that you had about even stepping into a career of sales?

Shawn Matthew Cook (02:53.334)

You know, I think it was, there was a perception of salespeople that they weren't trusted and trust was, I don't know, it's always been important to me. So I think it was this idea of being trusted, of not being sleazy or underhanded or deceitful. And I never wanted to be perceived that way. And so that caused some hesitation early on.

Wesleyne (03:21.784)

Yeah, you know, I think that unfortunately, that is still a preconceived notion that people have that salespeople can't be trusted, that they're just in it for the money, that they're selfish, that they're sleazy. I did a sales training recently and a person on the training was like, I don't wanna be that hard closer where I'm just coming in and launching for the sale. So I usually don't even ask for it, which is a whole another issue. But.

Shawn Matthew Cook (03:30.02)

Yeah.

Shawn Matthew Cook (03:46.347)

Oh my goodness.

Wesleyne (03:48.4)

When we think about becoming that trusted advisor, becoming really breaking that persona that the world has put on salespeople, what are some of the things that you were able to do early in your career to really break that paradigm for yourself?

Shawn Matthew Cook (04:04.574)

I would say listening. I mean, you know, listening is critical and anything, but in sales, I think it's even more so. And I just, I felt like I had a good ear. I still today listen to hundreds of sales calls because I'm always listening for, am I coming across? Is the customer hearing what I'm saying? Am I hearing what they're saying? And I've also found that putting yourself in the seat of your buyer,

um, is a key to really establishing trust. Because if I don't know that, you know, sure, you know, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. And I think by sitting in the seat of your buyer, uh, that takes away a lot of the anxiety that you might have around establishing trust.

Wesleyne (04:52.)

Ah, so not just thinking about yourself, not just thinking about your goals, but really stepping into that buyer's perspective. How does somebody go about doing that if they have been under that veil of, I'm just going for the hard close

Shawn Matthew Cook (05:09.366)

You know, it's, it's actually an exercise that I perform for my clients and that I would recommend anybody. If you're going into a new, uh, sales role, you need to do voice of the customer interviews and there's some really specific questions that you need to ask. Outside of having a defined persona in terms of, you know, who they are and their roles and titles and what they care about and how they're evaluated in their job, I think there are things like, why did you buy and what were you most afraid of?

before you bought and how would you describe what our service or our product does for you to an associate or to a friend and how would you describe it to your boss which would which might be very different um and so I think that some of those questions and just voice of the customer interviews and really hearing their perspective will really help you to align much better to what they actually care about.

Wesleyne (06:04.448)

Yes, learn to speak the language of the people who are buying from you. Because we use a lot of times we use our own terminology or we use the things that are important to us and they don't resonate with our buyer. So for me in my sales career, I am a chemist by trade, but I always sold to engineers. So I tell people I speak engineer fluently.

Shawn Matthew Cook (06:09.179)

Absolutely.

Wesleyne (06:27.492)

because I had to learn the terms that were important for them. I had to understand the problems that they were trying to solve with the solutions that I offered. And so it doesn't matter how great the product I'm selling or all of the amazing things that it does is if I'm not speaking their language.

Shawn Matthew Cook (06:45.95)

Yeah, 100%. You know, I liken it to, and I've had so many experiences in health tech and ed tech and Mar tech over the years, but I liken it to, and I wrote an article about this, think like a lawyer, but act like a doctor, right? And the doctor is asking, even when they might know the answers, they've been to school for a number of years, they already know what some of the answers are, they're still...

Wesleyne (07:04.924)

Mmm.

Shawn Matthew Cook (07:14.606)

curious and they are trusted by the way. And so we have to think about those things and then act like a lawyer where you're trying to put a preponderance of evidence. I gave these to one of my sales teams once. Like you need to get the scales, tip the scales of justice in your favor. So you got to find enough evidence that would suggest that the case is yours, right? That's a huge, I bought that for a team.

thinking that it was this small and they all got them and they were huge. So, a little story.

Wesleyne (07:51.32)

that I love that the doctor and the lawyer analogy, right, because those are very real concepts that we as human beings, we can apply to our lives because we know how doctors operate. We know what lawyers do, right? The doctors ask all the million questions, the lawyers take all the research, all the briefs, all the things and they give you a succinct solution, right? Very pointed to what you need. And I also think

that doctor and lawyer analogy, I would take that a step further to say, think about what a doctor and a lawyer do. Both doctors and lawyers specialize in their craft. If you have someone who is going through a divorce and you go to an attorney that is a criminal attorney, you're not going to get the right kind of help. If you are pregnant and you go to an orthopedic surgeon, you're not gonna get the right kind of help.

Shawn Matthew Cook (08:24.3)

Yeah.

Shawn Matthew Cook (08:47.158)

That's so true.

Wesleyne (08:47.2)

And I also think that there is something to be said about really understanding, like I like to say niche until it hurts, but understanding your specific buyer persona, the people who you sell to and how you can serve them specifically.

Shawn Matthew Cook (09:04.798)

Yeah, you know, I often say that understanding is the ability to stand under, right? And I think you need to stand under that person to before you can stand eye to eye with that person to understand their world. So yeah, understanding. I love it.

Wesleyne (09:27.772)

So I'm gonna switch gears just a little bit here and I want you to chat with us about how was it selling to marketers? Like, what was that even like in your world as a salesperson? Because they know what salespeople are trying to do. Some marketers hate salespeople. So how, what are some of the lessons learned and experiences you have from really selling into the marketing industry?

Shawn Matthew Cook (09:27.832)

in my sleep.

Shawn Matthew Cook (09:55.682)

So I think it goes back to that first one, which is you have to sit in their seat. Marketers will not be sold. Like, I could just, like, they are resistant to being sold. And so I think that a big part of that is, and this kind of ties to what I've been talking about in Choose Your Own Adventure, because I don't think you can sell anybody anything anymore. I think that, one, that person is not making the decision by themselves. There are multiple people that are probably involved.

Two, you're not getting a lot of time with that prospect. There's lots of studies now, Gartner and others, that are talking about the supplier or the buyer only getting, or the supplier only getting 15% of the buyer's actual time or less. And so I think that you have to define and orchestrate a journey that is predicated upon

getting yourself into the highest possible position. And I use a two by two to illustrate this. The left axis being the level of relationship. You can no longer just be a vendor or a supplier or even a solutions consultant. I think you have to be a strategic contributor and with the goal of being a trusted advisor. And that means you gotta know not just your product and your services, you gotta know their business.

You gotta really do your research and prepare for conversations with marketers, particularly because they will not be sold. Like you have to know your craft going into them. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier. If that left axis is level of relationship, the bottom axis is level of process. And I don't think that you can have a random, an informal processes when you are dealing with marketers.

who are moving around, they're very event-driven, they're doing a lot of different things, I think you have to have a process that is both formal and dynamic, and really at its highest level, it is adaptive and predictive in terms of how you engage with them. And that's why I say it needs to be defined and it needs to be orchestrated, and it has to be predicated upon giving them the best possible experience to make a decision.

Shawn Matthew Cook (12:15.99)

whether they choose you or whether they choose someone else. And you have to go into it with that kind of thought. Like, I'm gonna give you everything you need to make the best decision, and I'll tell you whether that should be me or not, right? So I think we should be now focused on facilitating buying processes rather than trying to sell.

Shawn Matthew Cook (12:45.534)

still seeing some delay. I'm sorry.

Wesleyne (12:50.532)

Okay, it's recording locally and so...

it's better, it looks better than what you see. And so I know like if I still hear you talking, and so Stella, she's my podcast editor, she'll just chop this little piece out where we just had a sidebar. So one of the things that I know is I'm the worst person to sell to because I am a salesperson. So I could pick up all the little tips, tick tricks and techniques and things that people are trying to do. And so again, if you are selling to marketers, if you are selling to someone

Shawn Matthew Cook (13:02.625)

Okay.

Wesleyne (13:24.062)

has affinity to what you do. So say I'm a technical salesperson, I'm selling to another technical person, it is my job and my responsibility to step into their world. My selling process must align with their buying process. If their buying process is, first of all, I am never in my office. I am always out in the field. I'm always walking the plant floor, for instance. I'm never sitting at my desk. You're wasting your time cold cull, right?

Shawn Matthew Cook (13:39.742)

Mm-hmm.

Wesleyne (13:52.66)

You gotta show up, you gotta figure out how to move outside of the noise. So when people are trying to align their selling process with a buyer's buying process, what are some tips that we can give them to really get started?

Shawn Matthew Cook (14:06.542)

So I think that the best way to be a success is to eliminate your chance of failure. And so I always think about what are the things that would cause someone to lose and how can I preemptively address those things? And so when it comes to, again, aligning to what buyers care about, how they buy, I think that you...

You have to know, like if someone is truly evaluating a solution, there's a couple of things that are going to happen in every deal. In particular, I'm talking about technology in general. There is some type of, you can call it discovery. I don't like discovery. I call it an insight and alignment conversation. So I have to bring insights and share those insights. And those insights should be based on the things that your most successful customers would care about and would agree with.

And if they agree with those same things, then there's a reason for us to continue the conversation. But if they don't care about and agree with the things that my most successful customers would care about, even if I sold them, they wouldn't be a good customer. So it just makes more sense for me to talk about the things that my most successful customers would care about and would agree with. Now I can do that in the form of what I'd like to call a commercial teaching, because if you're not bringing something new to the table,

that is teaching them something that is, or changing the way that they think about something, or reframing something that they were thinking about before, then you're gonna be out in the hallway with all the other salespeople. So like, I think that you have to have some type of commercial teaching, some type of why us, why now conversation that is used to catalyze action and is built on psychology, if you will, relative to.

I like to call it inception, but that is built on psychology that has some type of emotional impact relative to what that person would actually care about. If I get you that far, if we get that far, then the most important thing that you can do at that point, and really the quickest way to turn a stranger into a friend, is a story. And I think we are...

Wesleyne (16:25.105)

Hmm.

Shawn Matthew Cook (16:31.398)

Underarmed today in sales with stories, with true stories that captivate and that illustrate and that connect with buyers. We need better stories.

Wesleyne (16:48.312)

Yeah, one of the people on my team, she's like, what's lean? Have you done everything in life? Like anytime we get on with a prospect or a customer, you always have an experience or something that you encountered in your sales career. And it's not that I've encountered, probably have encountered a lot of stuff in life, right? But it's that I have memory, right? So any, when something happens, I'm like.

Shawn Matthew Cook (17:09.625)

Yeah.

Wesleyne (17:12.192)

Oh, that's insightful. Oh, I could use this when I'm talking to a person in this specific area, right? So it's being triggered by what's actually happening in your day-to-day motions of life, your day-to-day trajectory of what you're doing. And a lot of times new salespeople or new business owners, they're like, but I haven't been doing this. So I really don't have that depth of experience. You can borrow from other people.

You can use a story that happened to your colleague or as a new business owner, you're like, I don't wanna always talk about what I did as a salesperson. Say in a sales situation, right? You don't have to say as a salesperson, right? So really, I think that storytelling is so important because buyers don't have that much imagination. Take them on the path with them.

Shawn Matthew Cook (17:37.035)

Yeah.

Wesleyne (18:00.612)

put them make them the hero of the story help them see themselves in the story to help you get things over the finish line.

Shawn Matthew Cook (18:07.502)

Oh, yeah. Stories make it easier for the buyer to actually remember your product, your idea. They can actually increase the value of your product. A good story. There's a study that talks about this, where they bought a bunch of items on eBay for, I believe, $38 or $1.38 across all these averages. On average, it's what they pay for each one of the items.

And they wrote story descriptions behind them and put them up on eBay. And those same items sold for over $3,000. So they were at $38 worth of items. I think it was 30 items for $38. Um, and they sold for some $3,000, right? Just because of the story that was associated.

Wesleyne (18:43.1)

Mmm.

Wesleyne (18:57.212)

Awesome. So tell us when you decided to make the transition to start your own business, start your own company, what was the catalyst that really set you on that path?

Shawn Matthew Cook (19:09.654)

So, you know, I've been working on sales systems and I have this philosophy and, or belief or thesis, if you will, because I've been building teams and hiring and interviewing and coaching and developing and having managers that hire and develop people. And, you know, you have great salespeople and you have salespeople who are struggling and whatnot. And I wanted to get away from this belief that

Yes, hiring is important. Certainly you should hire the best possible person. But that person is probably at some point, if they're really, really good, going to be recruited away and all these other kind of things. And I just, after being on that wheel, I decided, what if you could create a system that reflected the behaviors, the mindsets, the mantras, the skills, the behaviors of a high performer? And you could put.

uh, if you, as they like to call it a B player or a C player, even with ambition into that same process. And just because of the motions, the movements of that system and the accountability associated with it, they would take on the physique of an A player. And I, and I just believe that. And so I could, I've done it in pieces with other organizations. And I just wanted to really just go to work on this science, if you will, behind this, because today.

with all of the data that we have and most of our sales activities being digital, it's the perfect time to actually have systems and processes that are repeatable and scalable and predictable because everything is digital.

Is that kind of spirit?

Wesleyne (20:50.444)

And so those being.

So those BNC players, what I understand about most people is they need a roadmap. So how have you really helped organizations with those BNC players level up?

Shawn Matthew Cook (21:09.174)

So I think that amongst a lot of organizations, there was a lot of different styles, but, and a lot of different standards. And I think you have to have a standard. I think that what most organizations fail to do is to establish a standard. What does good actually look like? We have enough, again, digital data now to actually score. I'm big on using data to help people make decisions about where to spend their time and how to spend their time.

Wesleyne (21:12.932)

Thanks for watching!

Shawn Matthew Cook (21:39.01)

And so what I did is I put into place, first of all, something called choose your own adventure, where we thought about all the meetings that were happening with our salespeople. And within those meetings, what are the verifiable outcomes that need to come? And can we actually orchestrate, define and orchestrate these meetings? And as a result of that, I took a team that was faltering and average deal size.

Wesleyne (22:01.02)

Thanks for watching!

Shawn Matthew Cook (22:06.742)

We increased it over 60%. We increased their conversion rate from unqualified to qualified by 25 plus basis points. And we sold more in six months than they had in the previous year.

Wesleyne (22:21.628)

Hmm, that's good, that's good. So when we think about, you know, your very diverse background, starting out in sales, selling to mark com executives, now working through sales process and really helping sales people be uplifted, share with us a experience that has impacted the way that you show up today.

Shawn Matthew Cook (22:52.81)

Oh, I would say, you know, you have mentors, and I think everybody should have mentors, some of them you know, and some of them you don't know. And my mentor, I didn't work directly for him, this guy named Alex Schutman, he is the CEO of Akima, and he was the CEO at Eloqua, we were, you know, 400 employees, we got bought by Oracle for 10 times our...

revenue and 40% of our stock price. But he was the one I saw that walked the walk. Like I've seen lots of leaders. I've worked for lots of leaders, but he lived it. He breathed it. And everything we did was based on his two by two, which was getting it done and doing it right. And I think by having frameworks, uh, that helped to guide my career. Cause, um, the use of frameworks for me became everything. And he introduced that framework.

I've introduced a couple of other, two other frameworks. I call them, or three other frameworks that I call the big four. They're all around thinking and being and doing, um, and feel. Um, and I think if you can measure it, if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist. So I'm always looking for ways to. To measure and to find myself. And that's what he gave me. He gave me the ability to locate myself and I would do it every quarter. I would take that two by two. I would score myself across.

different parameters and I would be like, here's where I am and I am where I am. It's, and you know, one of the things he talks about in there was that, you know, enthusiasm and optimism is one of the tenets on the, on the base, basis of that. And it's not seeing the truth for worse than what it really is. It is what it is, but it's not worse than that. And I think that by identifying where you are and then charting your path, everybody can grow.

if we just can measure where we are right now, if we can define kind of where we do. The ability to define is the ability to achieve. And I must credit Alex Schutman with the ability to help me really define where I was across the things that really matter.

Wesleyne (25:02.704)

Mmm, that's so good. That's so good. Mentors, allies, people who help pull us up and inspire us to be our best selves. I definitely can say, will say throughout my career, I have experienced some of that myself. So thank you so much for sharing. As we get ready to wrap up, share with us what is the one best way that people can reach out to you if they want to chat with you more.

Shawn Matthew Cook (25:11.659)

Yeah.

Shawn Matthew Cook (25:30.286)

Uh, definitely LinkedIn. Um, I'm, I'm always on LinkedIn, but, uh, you can go to my website, uh, b2bs Uh, you can email me Sean at b2bs And, uh, you know, I'm, I'm hoping to up my game and be more like you and visible us, TikTok and other social platforms do a little bit more with videos. So more to come, more to come.

Wesleyne (25:57.005)

Well, thank you so much, John, for your time, your talent, and your expertise that this has been an amazing conversation.

Shawn Matthew Cook (26:03.538)

I appreciate you so much and thank you for everything you're doing. I think that I've listened to a bunch of your episodes. Larry Long was amazing, by the way, I thought you did, you and he had a great time and I had a great time just listening, but continue to do the things you're doing and I'm excited to see what, what becomes of this podcast. Cause it's really great. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Wesleyne (26:25.828)

Well, thank you so much for being here. And that was another episode of the Transform Sales Podcast. Remember, in all that you do, transform your sales. Until next time.

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